I’ve started reading Cheese and Culture from Dr. Paul Kindstedt and am just in the first chapter, which discusses the earliest origins of domesticated ruminants as a source of sustenance in human culture. In light of that, this was an interesting story to come across. Via Wired.com:
A genetic study of cattle has claimed that all modern domesticated bovines are descended from a single herd of wild ox, which lived 10,500 years ago.
A team of geneticists from the National Museum of Natural History in France, the University of Mainz in Germany, and UCL in the UK excavated the bones of domestic cattle on archaeological sites in Iran, and then compared those to modern cows. They looked at how differences in DNA sequences could have arisen under different population history scenarios, modeled in computer simulations.
The team found that the differences that show up between the two populations could only have arisen if a relatively small number of animals — approximately 80 — had been domesticated from a now-extinct species of wild ox, known as aurochs, which roamed across Europe and Asia. Those cattle were then bred into the 1.4 billion cattle estimated by the UN to exist in mid-2011…
… Jean-Denis Vigne, a CNRS bio-archaeologist and author on the study, said in the release: “A small number of cattle progenitors is consistent with the restricted area for which archaeologists have evidence for early cattle domestication 10,500 years ago. This restricted area could be explained by the fact that cattle breeding, contrary to, for example, goat herding, would have been very difficult for mobile societies, and that only some of them were actually sedentary at that time in the Near East.”
(Photo ©2012 Wired.com)